Madeleine Altimari has lost her mother to cancer and her father to a depression that just won’t lift. And so it is that she is being casually raised by a collection of her parents’ friends in Philadelphia’s Italian Market, where her father once owned the busiest deli and was loved by all. Madeleine, who has known little but disappointment in life is an irreverent, trouble-making fifth grader with only one ally, her teacher Sarina Greene.
One day, Madeleine learns of a little known jazz club in Philly’s Fishtown neighborhood called The Cat’s Pajamas and becomes determined to sing there. Her mother was an amateur singer and her father a jazz aficionado, and together they taught her an entire catalog of jazz legends. Madeleine herself is blessed with an amazing voice perfect for singing the greats.
The story takes place on the day before Christmas Eve and focuses on three rebellious characters; Sarina Greene, Madeleine, and the owner of The Cat’s Pajamas, Jack Lorca. As the day progresses, we are introduced to a host of characters who unwittingly help or obstruct the fulfillment of Madeleine’s dreams. Along the way, romance blooms, a father finally comes to understand and connect with his son, and a star (or two) is born.
This is a truly magical book filled with unforgettable characters who are as unique as they are realistic. Book club readers will love discussing the nature of resiliency and villages who truly do raise families!
Crown/Random House; ISBN 978-0- 80414-023-2 $25.